May 5, 2021Summer Sanitation Is Important as Ever
To contact John Palumbo go to: jpalumbo@ag.Arizona.edu
Pigweeds are some of the most common summer annual broadleaf weeds in the low deserts. Although they are often lumped together, there are 4 different species of pigweed that are common here and more than 10 species that occur as weeds in California and Arizona. Their growth habits and response to herbicides are similar. It is easy to identify them by physical characteristics but one species of pigweed can hybridize with another and become less distinguishable.
Palmer Amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) is probably the most common pigweed species found in this region. It is very aggressive and fast growing and can become 6 feet tall or higher if uncontrolled. It has one thick stem and several lateral branches. The leaves are lance shaped, hairless and have distinctive white veins on the underside. It has flowering tassels that become stiff and spiny. This species has become resistant to Glyphosate in many parts of the county.
Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) is probably the second most common pigweed species. It is shorter and the seed heads are smaller, in clusters and have stiff spine-like scales. It has leaf hairs on the margins and the veins are often reddish. The lower stems are often reddish. This species will hybridize with Palmer Amaranth and become less distinguishable.
Tumble Pigweed (Amaranthus albus) is very different from Palmers or Redroot. It grows lower to the ground and has many branches that turn upright. The leaves are much smaller and narrower. The numerous stems are light green rather than red. The seed heads are small, spiny and at the base of the leaves rather than in long terminal spikes. When mature, the branches are sticky, stiff bristles that break off at the ground and tumble with the wind.
Prostrate Pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides) is very similar to Tumble Pigweed but the stems are more prostrate, grow close to the ground and form mats. The stems and leaves are smaller and reddish rather than light green.
Damping off is a common problem in spinach. This season we have observed the occurrence of the disease from Imperial valley, to Yuma and all the way to Wellton.
Symptoms of damping‑off and root rot consist of poor seed germination, preemergence death of seedlings, postemergence death of newly emerged seedlings, stunted plants, yellowed lower leaves, general poor growth, wilting, and eventual collapse and death of older plants. The upper taproot may be girdled by a necrotic lesion, or the tip of the taproot may be necrotic. In severe cases, nearly all roots may be girdled or rotted off. Damping-off is problematic in spinach production areas throughout the world. Severity is influenced by cultivar, soil texture, irrigation, and pathogen populations. Severe damping-off is associated with clay or poorly draining soils with a history of frequent spinach production. While all stages of spinach can be infected by root rot organisms, newly emerging plants and young seedlings are very susceptible.
Symptoms are more prominent in areas with poor drainage. These spinach problems are caused by a complex of pathogenic soil fungi that include one or more of the following: Fusarium oxysporum, Pythium (several species), and Rhizoctonia solani. These fungi are present in most soils and can get aggressive and cause loss when the environment is favorable. However, aboveground symptoms of plants that are overwatered are similar to symptoms of root rot. Excess water can damage roots, causing tan to brown, water‑soaked symptoms on roots even if no pathogen is present.
Plant spinach in well draining soils. Prepare seed beds so that even, rapid germination is enhanced. Carefully manage the irrigation schedule to prevent flooding and saturated soil conditions. Plant seed that is treated with fungicides and fumigate the beds. Preplant application of mefenoxam will only control damping-off caused by Pythium. Avoid planting consecutive spinach crops and practice good crop rotation.
Always remember the disease triangle, the necessity of a susceptible host, the favorable environment, and virulent pathogen. To create unfavorable environment avoid overwatering, do light but frequent irrigation to avoid standing water in the field, schedule watering in the morning or earlier part of the day. Addition of soil amendments to increase microbial activity can be helpful.
This is the second in a series of articles discussing technological advances being made by manufacturers of automated thinning and weeding machines. This is a fast-moving space and innovations are entering the marketplace constantly. One of these on the near-term horizon is a robotic thinner/weeder being developed by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA that uses hot vegetable oil to kill weeds. The idea is to spray a “micro-dose” of hot oil (320 °F) onto the targeted plant/weed with high levels of precision. Why vegetable oil and not water or steam? Sufficient levels of heat from any source will rupture cell membranes and kill plants, but the advantage of vegetable oils is that they adhere to plant surfaces better than water and can be raised to much higher temperatures before boiling. Soybean oil for example, has a boiling point of 450 °F which is much higher than that of water at 212 °F. Consequently, vegetables oils transfer more heat faster than hot water and kill plants more effectively. A limitation of steam is the difficulty in concentrating the heat energy onto the target plant.
The concept of using hot vegetable oil to control weeds with an automated machine is not new and has some merit. Vegetable oil degrades naturally in the soil and thus can be used in commercial and organic crop production. Researchers at UC Davis developed and tested a prototype, hot oil based micro-dosing sprayer for automated weeding in tomato crops (Giles et al. 2005, Zhang et al., 2012). They found the technique effective at controlling weeds (>90%), but computing speeds were too slow for the integrated automated weeding machine to be commercially viable at the time.
Tensorfield Agriculture is rejuvenating the idea using modern computers, artificial intelligence and automation. The company has built a micro-dosing sprayer that delivers heated oil to target weeds at the 1/2” scale level of precision (Fig. 1). The sprayer assembly is mounted on an autonomous, robotic platform (Fig 2 - please note that the robotic platform depicted is a first-generation design developed for testing and debugging purposes and that a commercial style unit is forthcoming). Computer imaging and artificial intelligence are used to detect crop plants and weeds. The company will be testing and debugging the system this winter in California with carrot, spinach and romaine crops. The aim is to have prototype commercial systems available for the spring of 2021.
Some of you may have visited Tensorfield Agriculture’s booth or seen their technical breakout-session presentation at the 2020 Southwest Ag Summit in Yuma, AZ. They have an interest in working in the Yuma area and with the University of Arizona. It will be interesting to see how this technology progresses over the winter and how killing weeds with heated vegetable oil may benefit weed management systems.
As I mentioned, automated thinning and weeding technologies are advancing at a very rapid pace. If you know of a new technology that would be of interest and appropriate for this publication, please feel free to contact me.
 Reference to a product or company is for specific information only and does not endorse or recommend that product or company to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.
Fig. 1. Custom built sprayer modules for delivering high temperature vegetable oil (350 °F) to kill weeds organically. The units are designed for precision weed control (1/2” scale of resolution) by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA (Photo credit – Tensorfield Agriculture).
Fig. 2. Autonomous robot for thinning and weeding using heated vegetable oil. The unit is a first-generation prototype designed for testing and debugging purposes by Tensorfield Agriculture, San Francisco, CA (Photo credit – Tensorfield Agriculture).
Giles, D.K., Lanini, W.T. & Slaughter, D.C. 2005. Precision weed control for organic and conventional specialty crops. In Buy California Crop Block Grant Program Final Report. Sacramento, Calif.: California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Zhang, Y., Staab, E.S., Slaughter, D.C., Giles, D.K. & Downey, D. Automated weed control in organic row crops using hyperspectral species identification and thermal micro-dosing. Crop Protection 41: 96-105.
The Yuma County Leaf Wetness Network remains in place for the 2018/19 vegetable season. Growers and PCAs may access information generated by the network by entering the following internet address: http://22.214.171.124:460
Upon entering the address above, you will be transferred to internet page that provides a series of tabs at the top of the page. Simply click on the tabs to access the information of interest.
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed here.
We have started our Areawide Insect and DBM Trapping Network for the 2019-20 season.
We have added another trapping location in Bard, CA.
Area wide Insect Trapping Network VegIPM Update, Vol. 11, No. 20, Sep 30, 2020
Results of pheromone and sticky trap catches can be viewed here.
Corn earworm: Moth activity about normal for September but beginning to increase, particularly in Dome Valley and south Yuma Valley.
Beet armyworm: Moths remain active throughout the desert, especially in Texas Hill and Tacna growing areas- Staring to pick up in the south Yuma Valley.
Cabbage looper: Cabbage looper activity unusually low for mid-late September. Larvae just starting to show up in some fields.
Whitefly: Adult movement has been relatively light and about average for this time of year. Activity highest in Dome Valley.
Thrips: To date, thrips activity has been seasonably low at all trap locations; most activity found in Bard. Numbers beginning to slowly trend upward
Aphids: No aphids have been caught on traps thus far. Normal for this time of year. Still early, anticipate they will begin to show up in October.
Leafminers: Adult activity below normal for September, but moderate numbers caught in Wellton and south Gila Valley in areas where cotton was recently harvested and disked under.